Oga (elder brother in the Yoruba language), do you know that I don’t understand you self? (typical Nigerian grammatical construction)
What do you mean, my brother?
For whose benefit are you writing all those big, big grammar in the newspapers and on the internet?
What do you mean?
Oga, don’t be angry, but I always read you and your big grammar, complaining about this and that about Nigeria, Ghana and Africa. Don’t be angry with me, sir, but it looks like you’ve nothing better to do with your time. I don’t think that you even have a family.
What do you mean; I have got a family. Do you mean to tell me that no one should write about the shortcomings one sees around him? Isn’t it said that writers are the conscience of their society?
That could be true, but I think that writers also should be realistic about the type of society in which they live. They need to have their feet firmly on terra-firma and not cocooned themselves in some cuckoo land from where to hurl invective against one and all. Those things you call shortcomings are the spices of life. They are the things that make our sweet world goes on its merry rounds in a smooth trajectory. Why waste time and effort to write all those headache-inducing grammar which very few people even bother to read?
I am not following your logic.
Oh! It’s quite simple. If I may ask you, how many of our people do you think have the time or the inclination to read all those ponderous things you write? The average Nigerian wants to have fun. He wants to eat his eba with egunsi and drink his Guinness. He is satisfy as long as he can get suya to eat, a lovely and shapely woman to screw and a place he can perch. He is hardly interested in anything more intellectual than his Bible and Lottery papers. Occasionally, he wants a place he can dance himself silly and on Sunday, he visit his God in his church and give thanks for a blessed week. That is his ritual which you only try to upset with your iconoclastic views.
Yes. Think of it this way. I once read a piece where you wrote that Nigerians consider laws as mere suggestions.
Yeah, what is wrong with that?
Ah, Oga, can’t you see that everything is wrong with that position! Let me, with all due respects, ask you a question?
Ok, go ahead
It’s a theoretical question, purely academic
Stop beating around the bush. What’s your question?
Are laws anything more than suggestions?
Of course they are. What would the world be without the benefit of the ordered society governed by the rule of law whereby everybody is equal before the law?
Do you really believe that?
Do you really believe that everyone is equal before the law?
Of course. Don’t you?
Of course, not. Theoretically everyone is equal before the law, but everyone knows that the agents of the law treat people differently based on the size of their pocket. That is what Nigerians, realists that they are, know. They live with the reality that the state and its laws treat people differently. There is no running away from that simple fact. So, they do their best to adjust to the bad situation foisted upon them by the state and its actors and agents.
But that precisely is the core problem. When people hold such cynical view of modern states, the result is the problematic chaos, disorder and corruption we all see around us?
Who is complaining?
We are all losers when we have to spend inordinate hours in hot traffic because people refuse to obey simple traffic rules and regulations. We all suffer, don’t you see?
All that could be true, sir. But you can also try to see it from the average Nigerian point of view. Oga, supposing, just supposing that you are to go and sign a ten million naira contract, you are in your car driving to meet the appointment. Your adrenaline is pumping and all that. Along the way you ran into one of those hopeless Lagos traffic logjams that leaves your brain frying in the hot sun. The person with whom you are going to sign the contract is a renowned no-sense woman who doesn’t believe in not keeping appointment. You can kiss the contract goodbye if you are a minute late for the appointed time. Your only option is to take a one-way side road to beat the traffic. But it really was not your day for as soon as you branched, a policeman stopped you. And you know our police, now. The officer demanded that you settle am before he’ll allow you to continue your journey. The question now is: would you give the policeman one thousand naira or kiss ten million contract goodbye?
Oga, sorry, but let me land before you bury me. How about this, your beloved wife developed serious complication during child-birth. You know the conditions in our hospitals. The doctor hinted that both mother and child will die unless you can give him something to arrange some emergency surgery to save their lives. Would you stand on your principle on not giving bribery and allow them to die? Will your conscience be at peace?
That would not be necessary if things are well-ordered and…
Ah, there you are. Well-ordered! Are things well-ordered in this dear country of our death?
But the system will continue to rot if people give bribes. More over…
There is no moreover there. The saying is that when you’re in Rome do as the Romans do. Take our education system for another example. I am using system here advisedly since there is no manner to the parlous state of affairs at our places of learning. You have this brilliant daughter whose chance of getting a place at the university depends on you giving something to someone who knows someone who might help. Would you let her education suffer because you want to stand on principle?
That is just the problem. If everybody will only stand on the principle of not giving bribe…
There you have it: everybody not giving bribe. But who is going to bell the cat? That is the question. Who will be the first one to stand on principles in this our unprincipled nation?
But we have to start from somewhere…
Agreed, but where do we stand in a situation like ours which, beg your pardon, is quite hopeless. Say you live in a residential area where all your neighbours pay bribe in order to get their electricity meters, would you stand on principle and keep your family in darkness. What would your wife and children say to that?
If I explain to them…
What are you going to explain to them? That you keep them in darkness on principle? Do you think that they will understand your thinking? Are you going to tell your wife that she cannot buy and use a fridge, like all her neighbours, because you want to stand on principle? Or do you expect your children to understand principle when they come home from school and cannot watch the TV, or use the Computer to do their homework because their father is standing on principle?
There is no but, sir. You just got to learn to stand on reality and not principle. If you cannot beat them, join them. No one eat principle in this country of our death. Talking of death, would you elect to stand on principle if you go to hospital and discovered that you needed a dialysis machine like yesterday and the waiting list is longer than your arm. The doctor can do something, I am using the Nigerian parlance here. But you have to see him, to use another Nigerian terminology. What would you do? Would you allow your principle to send you to an untimely grave, or would you pay some bribe to get you the machine that will save your life? Let’s assume that you even decided on principle and refused the machine; don’t you think that your own wife will curse the day she marry you. Don’t you think that your children will think you the biggest fool this side of the ape divide? Don’t get me wrong, I am for principle and all that, but I am also a realist. I take stock of my situation, my environment and make my decisions based on what accrued in my society. Do you remember the late, bemoaned Soviet Union.
No, just be patient and let me explain. The Soviet leaders believed that they have managed to create the most endearing paradise on earth. The Nomenklatura lived in a totally different world from the real world of the ordinary Soviet citizens. So, when they see people protesting their assumed paradise, they concluded that such citizens must be delusional paranoid and totally crazy. They send them to their Gulag best described by the novelist, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
And the moral of your tale?
Don’t get me wrong, sir. I am not a celluloid moralist. I told you that I am as a realist as they come. What I am saying is that our leaders here in Nigerian might also conclude that people like you are mad. To them, they have managed to create a system which makes it possible for people to steal billions of dollars from the national kitty and parade themselves as the toasts of town with degrees and chieftaincy titles from all over the place. We have a system whereby an unlettered politico can fight his way into a local government council and start to earn salaries and emoluments higher than a university don with forty years experience. We have a system whereby the Personal Assistants of our Senators earn more than University Vice-Chancellors. All these are possible in our dear land of our death. Our leaders must conclude that they have evolved the perfect system that give every citizen equal rights to become whatever he wants as long as he is prepared to deploy his brain and brawn in the right direction.
There is no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts.’ In your heart of hearts you know that I tell nothing but the gospel truth. In this country of our death, the president of senate earns more than the president of almighty America. And the man brandished nothing more than a stint in the army. Look at those whom we call legislators, what have they legislated that benefitted the common man? At the end of their four year sitting in the parliament they allocate to themselves ex-gratia awards that dwarf what the average Nigerian earn in a lifetime. So, you see, sir, our leaders would be right to think that Nigerians that complain about hard lives are insane. They will rightly ask why people like you busy themselves with complaining about the short-comings instead of seeing the big picture. They will be right to think of people like you as crazy-bananas that deserved to be shot or incarcerated, Amnesty International and all the Human Rights organizations be damned!
But, with that type of cynical mindset, how do you expect the country to prosper?
Ah, Oga, why should you worry your head about the country prospering? Countries are abstract entities. We should concern ourselves with real, tangible human beings. So long as Nigerians are prospering, the nation should prosper. No be so?